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K. Ayyappa Paniker (Selected Essays)

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K. Ayyappa Paniker (Selected Essays)
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Item Code: NAR337
Author: K. Satchidanandan
Publisher: Sahitya Akademi, Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9788126047550
Pages: 258
Other Details: 8.50 X 5.50 inch
weight of the book: 0.36 kg
About the Book

K. Ayyappa Paniker (1930-2006) was one of the pioneers of modern poetry in Malayalam, an influential literary critic, translator, academic and scholar who had his doctorate from Indiana University and did post-doctoral research at Yale and Harvard, taught in the University of Kerala and in many universities across the world. A recipient of Padmashri from the Government of India, Paniker has won numerous awards and Fellowships including Sahitya Akademi award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi award, Kabir Samman, Saraswati Samman and Indira Gandhi Fellowship. His poems have been collected in five volumes and critical essays in four volumes. He has authored several monographs, authored books like Indian Narratology in English and edited the Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature and An Anthology of Medieval Indian Literature for Sahitya Akademi. He has translated poetry and prose into Malayalam as well as from Malayalam into English.

This book is the first selection of Ayyappa Paniker's critical essays in Malayalam to appear in English. The essays deal with a range of subjects and the book carries a select bibliography of Paniker's critical works to help the inquisitive readers arid researchers.

About the Author

K. Satchidanandan (b. 1946) is one of the pioneers of modern poetry and criticism in Malayalam, a translator of world poetry, editor, academic and scholar. After 25 years of teaching in Kerala he moved to Delhi to edit Indian Literature and later went on to become the Secretary of the Sahitya Akademi. He also served as Director and Professor of the School of Translation Studies at IGNOU and was National Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Satchidanandan's Collected Poems (1965-2015) in Malayalam and Selected Poems in English (The Missing Bib) came out in 2016. His selected poems are also available in English in Misplaced Objects and Other Poems (Sahitya Akademi) and While I Write (Harper Collins). He has 20 collections of his essays in Malayalam and 4 collections of essays on Indian literature originally written in English. His collections of poetry are available in 28 volumes in 19 foreign and Indian languages. This is besides several volumes of poetry and essays edited by him.

Satchidanandan has represented India in many literary festivals and book fairs across the world and won 34 awards and Fellowships including Sahitya Akademi award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi awards (in 5 genres), and Gangadhar Meher, Kuvempu and Kusumagraj awards. He is a Fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi and recipient of Knighthood from the Govt of Italy.


While the West has several examples of poet-critics and even the poets who were not known as critics did a lot of critical writing in the form of letters, notebooks, reviews, lectures and introductions, in Indian literary practice we seldom come across poets who applied their literary insight, imagination, sensibility and understanding with equal innovative energy and attention to criticism in the manner of say, a T S Eliot or a Czeslaw Milosz. Many of those who have tried their hand at both are known either as major poets and minor critics or vice versa. The scenario however has begun to change especially after the rise of modernism in Indian languages, chiefly because the first generation modernists were forced by circumstances to legitimize their innovations by bringing their new sensibility to bear not just upon the criticism of contemporary poetry, but on other genres and also on the writing of the past in their own languages as well as the classical languages whose texts have continued to inspire writers of all time, including the modernists who drew a lot from the classical tradition in order to battle the romantic sensibility that ruled the roost when they emerged on the scene. Late K. Ayyappa Paniker, a pioneer of modern poetry in Malayalam-Ka. Na. Subramaniam of Tamil, Bishnu Dey and Shankha Ghosh of Bengali, BS Mardhekar and Bhalchandra Nemade of Marathi and SH Vatsyayan and GM Muktibodh of Hindi could be other examples-belongs to this new brood of modern poet-critics in Indian languages. Many of them, including Ayyappa Paniker, were also academics, translators of poetry and editors of poetry magazines, activities complementing their creative-critical engagement.

Ayyappa Paniker's poetic and critical endeavors share some common traits: uncompromising opposition to all forms of totalitarian power, an egalitarian vision shaped around human freedom, basic rights, dignity and social justice, a radical democratic impulse and an innovative spirit that aspired to remould literature and reset the canons. At the core of Paniker' criticism is a liberal democratic approach that welcomes the new without rejecting the values of the old, believe in re-reading texts to free them from established notions and an attempt to integrate a social vision with an aesthetic one, without reducing literary criticism to mere sociology. In his poetry he had re-established the lost connections between written poetry and the oral and the performing traditions of Malayalam poetry by reviving and innovating several old forms, modes and meters, exposed the cant and hypocrisy of the world around him using invective, satire and black humour, fought the anti-democratic tendencies in politics (as in the poems he wrote during the Emergency) and the divisive tendencies in society, without ever declaring himself as a 'committed' poet as he did not want to compromise his freedom to criticise every form of vested interest and oppressive power. Paniker's critical essays chronologically organized in three volumes (covering respectively the periods 1950-80, 1980-90 and 1990-2005) prove beyond doubt that the critical democratic egalitarian vision at the core of his poetry also informs his literary criticism in subtle and complex ways.

Some of Paniker's early critical articles, evidently the products of his academic life, are on English poets like PB Shelley and TS Eliot. The young teacher of English literature sees five essential qualities in Shelley's poetry: sincerity, spontaneity, musicality, visceral quality and revolutionary consciousness. That was the time when the poet Paniker was writing romantic poems in the vein of Changampuzha Krishna Pillai, the romantic-anarchist of Malayalam poetry, who was born nineteen years before him and passed away when our poet-critic was eighteen. He is all praise for Prometheus Unbound that he feels sparks a lightning in the interiors of the heart and will continue to inspire progressives even today. He sees Adonais as a profound assertion of faith in man and extolls the lover and the radical in Shelley at the same time. With plenty of examples from Queen Mab, The Cenci, The Revolt of Islam, Prometheus Unbound, The Mask of Anarchy and other works, the critic conceptualises freedom as the ceaseless flow of the eternal vital force that keeps challenging the status quo. Paniker's own poetry imbibed this spirit of anarchy and the visceral force even when he overcame the excesses of romanticism and tamed his emotions with his detached humour and sense of irony. In the essay on TS Eliot, Paniker (who also later translated many poems by Eliot including 'The Wasteland') goes into the historical circumstances behind the poet's disillusionment: the decadence of Western European civilization, the world war, the fall of idols, lack of helpful ideologies, the uncertainties of the post-industrial world. He agrees with Eliot's diagnosis, but is skeptical about the metaphysical solutions-Upanishadic as well as Biblical-Eliot seems to suggestion The Wasteland or Four Quartets. He compares his poetry to a private garden. Eliot is experimental, no doubt; but he is the poet of a minority and thus denies the communicative democracy and fails to provide a dream for the future.

Ayyapa Paniker has written many articles and books of poetics and criticism in English, but he is essentially a Malayalam critic writing about Malayalam literature and engaging seriously with the cultural contexts of Malayalam classics as well as contemporary works. The young Paniker welcomes the poetry of NV Krishna Variyar which had challenged the conventions of romanticism with realistic narratives like `Kochu Thomman. He praises NV for his independent, direct style as different from Changampuzha's lyrical style that was already a cliché as also his Swift-like power evident in poems like `Elikal' (Rats) and the light humour in `Madirashiyile Sayahnam' ( An Evening in Madras), but he is critical of NV's cynicism that sees only hollow men around and his general insensitivity when it comes to depicting emotions. He sees NV's poetry as the 'rough passage' from the lyrical romantic poetry to a strong and sensitive modern poetry. In these early essays, the young communist that Paniker then had been, seems to seek a third way that combines social concern with poetic beauty. In his later essays the approach becomes subtler and more open when it comes to formal experiments.

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